Jill Boughton
Freelance Writer
October 31, 2023 // Diocese

‘Life Is a Civil Right’: Alveda King Encourages Michiana Pro-Life Supporters

Jill Boughton
Freelance Writer

Alveda King, the niece of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., was the keynote speaker for the 32nd Annual Right to Life Benefit Dinner on Thursday, October 19. Sharing about her own abortions and her mother’s close brush with euthanasia, the nationally known pro-life speaker offered words of inspiration to 750 supporters gathered in the University of Notre Dame’s Dahnke Ballroom to continue the crusade to change hearts and minds until abortion and euthanasia become unthinkable.

King frequently called those in attendance back to prayer and recounted a story that revealed her own heart. When a heckler once told her, “I’m pro-choice; I was born this way,” she responded, “Then you need to be born again!”

Instead of giving a talk in the traditional sense, King sat down with Andrew Weiss, the master of ceremonies for the event, and responded to questions, many submitted ahead of time by attendees.

Photo provided by Mary Ivancsics
Pro-life speaker Alveda King speaks to the crowd during an interview with Andrew Weiss at the 32nd Annual Right to Life Benefit Dinner on Thursday, October 19, at the Dahnke Ballroom on the campus of the University of Notre Dame.

King spoke of growing up in an extended church-going family that was dedicated to the sacredness of all life. Neatly joining civil rights to life issues, she declared: “We’re all of one blood and race, the human race. If you love me, you won’t kill me or my baby – or tell me I’m not going to be able to take care of him.” 

As a young woman, King had two secret abortions – one voluntary and one performed without her consent by a doctor she thought was just administering a pregnancy test. But in 1983, “I repented and turned my life over to God,” she said. God’s forgiveness was all she needed, “but if I tell others about my experience, God is going to heal them, and he’s going to bless me.”

With permission, she also shared her 91-year-old mother’s experiences with euthanasia. Two different times, a blood disorder was causing her a great deal of pain. She felt so bad she wanted to die, so doctors gave her morphine “to keep her comfortable” – until King’s daughter “drug Grandma out of the hospital” to get a second opinion. A different doctor found a way to improve the circulation and salve the painful wounds.

“Don’t get me wrong,” King explained. “I want my mother to go the Lord whenever she’s ready, but I don’t want her to feel she has to go because she’s suffering so much.”

Characterized as “a guardian of the King family legacy,” King told the crowd that “abortion is not a civil right. Life is a civil right. I spend my time not so much fighting against abortion but fighting for life. I am against abortion because I believe that there are better opportunities and choices than to abort a child.”

At one point, King asked everyone younger than the age of 40 to stand. The response was very encouraging to those who have been engaged in the pro-life movement for more than 50 years. There was a large group of students from Marian High School and a number of Franciscan sisters (who donated one of the more popular auction items, dinner with the sisters).

Antonio Marchi, Executive Director of Michiana Right to Life, took his position in the organization in June of 2022, around the time the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. “That lit a new fire under the team,” said Marchi, who told the crowd that the organization has two main objectives: offering practical support to meet the needs of expectant moms and educating with the objective of healing our culture that has tragically devalued human life.

During her interview, King underscored the eight initiatives Michiana Right to Life hopes to undertake with the help of money raised through the dinner. They are:

• Hire a professional case worker for the HerMichiana mobile unit, which was on display outside the venue. The vehicle travels throughout St. Joseph, Elkhart, and all contiguous counties, including three in Michigan. 

• Expand the Life Team Workshops to kindergarten and upper elementary classes.

• Launch the inaugural Michiana African Americans for Life Breakfast.

• Develop an outreach to women traveling out of state for abortions.

• Produce a comprehensive list of pro-life resources, pastors, and congregations.

• Work against the illicit mailing of abortion-inducing drugs into Indiana.

• Formalize strategic efforts to combat euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.

• Set in motion the organization’s most extensive public education campaign to change hearts and minds about abortion.

Marchi also spoke of forging partnerships with churches and other organizations. Major sponsors for the event included Catholic Charities of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Franciscan Alliance, and the University of Notre Dame, in addition to several individuals and couples. 

Honorary chairs of the event were Walter and Elaine Nicgorski, who became involved in the pro-life cause by publishing a newsletter that predated the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. In his opening remarks at the benefit dinner, Walter said now that the legal obstacle has been removed and Indiana law is on the side of the endangered unborn, the pro-life movement has “entered a time of new opportunity.” He urged friends of life to “give like champions” to work toward a new age of respect for human dignity. 

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